Why We Should Care About Our Corpse

The political significance of the destruction of the dead

Halloween is a good occasion to think about why the destruction of cemeteries is the nuclear option of cultural war. Attacks on places of the dead are aimed not just at the present of a people—a strike against the living whose ancestors are gathered there—but at their past. It is meant to wipe out the history that defines a community.

If Halloween is—or at least was, back when it was called All Souls Day and the names of generations of the dead in a churchyard were read aloud in every parish—an occasion for bringing the dead temporarily back to life, desecrating cemeteries is the opposite: an act of erasure.

The Guardian recently published satellite photographs that document the Chinese government’s large-scale use of this weapon of mass cultural genocide. In Aksu, Anjang Province, what in 2015 had

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